Do you ever feel guilty of being selfish? 

“How do you know the difference between being selfish and just good self-care?”

This is a question that Michael Yapko PhD, in his recent book, poses as one of the top 12 discernment struggles. Too often people give up on good self-care because they wrongly judge something as being ‘selfish’. I put my hand up for being guilty of this countless times, putting everyone else’s needs before my own and neglecting to attend to my own needs. No one wins in the long run.

To help those of us who feel guilty of being ‘selfish’ here are a few strategies on how to reduce the struggle.

Tip One ~ Determine what keeps you in balance and what you need for optimal functioning

One of my favourite things, which helps me to keep in balance, is spending time in my little veggie patch. Hours just disappear while I potter in there, tending to my thriving tomato bushes. I could easily feel guilty for isolating myself for half a day and not spending my time doing more ‘productive’ or social things but I know this is really healthy for me. What’s your ‘time warp’ activity that brings contentment?

Tip Two ~ Accept your needs as legitimate for you

Giving permission to tend to our own needs and taking responsibility for them is essential to busting the myth on ‘selfishness’. Just because someone else may not see the value in your self-care activities doesn’t make them less legitimate, effective or essential. There’s no one-size-fits-all formula for good self-care activities, so stop justifying what brings balance into your life.

Tip Three ~ Be an early bird 

Catching the ‘stress worm’ early, before it starts to have a harmful effect on self or others is what smart people do. If taking a day off for self-care is going to prevent getting sick or keep sanity intact, it’s valid, not selfish. Do it before getting run down.

Tip Four ~ Put other’s needs before you own when it’s appropriate

You’re definitely not selfish if you can consider other people as well. If you feel willing to help out when needed and put someone else’s needs first on occasion then you’re able to be empathic and appropriate. I often have clients ask me if they’re a narcissist. One of the hallmark traits of narcissism is an incapacity to empathise with others, so if you can put aside your own perspective and see another’s point of view or needs, take heart and trust in yourself.

Tip Five ~ Grant yourself permission to author your life

One of the privileges of adulthood is the opportunity to write the story of your own life. Remember your the author of your story, not someone else. You can choose any plot or characters your wish. How will you write the next chapter?

Warm regards


Yapko, M. PhD. (2016) The Discriminating Therapist: Asking “How” Questions, Making Distinctions, and Finding Direction in Therapy, Yapko Publications, Fallbrook, CA.